This Wednesday is the deadline for students in the state's largest school district to submit immunization records. If they fail to turn that in, they will not be allowed to attend school.
As of Friday, district officials said about 1,400 students still lacked immunization paperwork.
The district held three immunization clinics over the winter break and vaccinated 126 students. Samara Hoag, health services manager for Seattle Public Schools, said there are still ways for students to get vaccinated this week.
“We have 28 school-based health centers in Seattle Public Schools,” she said. “Students who are enrolled in Seattle Public Schools can go to those clinics and get the shots.”
State law requires schools to exclude students who lack proof of immunization, a plan to get fully immunized, or certificates of exemption. Hoag said the district has not excluded kids in the past couple of decades. But she said recent measles outbreaks in Washington have shown how important it is for school officials to know which students are at risk of getting infected.
“If we have an outbreak of a communicable disease like whooping cough or measles, we have to know what the kid’s immunization status is,” Hoag said.
Last July, a new state law went into effect eliminating the personal or philosophical exemption for the measles vaccine. That, in addition to the measles outbreaks, created the impetus for Seattle Public Schools to become stricter about vaccination records.
But processing paperwork for roughly 53,000 students has been challenging. The district contacted families in seven languages other than English, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and Amharic, Hoag said. And for students from Ethiopia, district officials have had to convert dates from the Ethiopian calendar, which is roughly seven to eight years behind the calendar used in the United States.
Hoag said district officials are still working to contact families and process paperwork so that students will be able to keep going to school.